Friday, 22 October 2010

Friday Flash - The Priest Hole

Pete threw down the EMF meter in disgust. The needle lay at the neutral end of the scale. Six hours of staring at it, and the damn thing refused to move. He hoped he could find the receipt when he got home.

Pete made another circuit of the room. His objects remained where he’d planted them. No footprints disturbed the flour sprinkled across the floorboards. The thermometer wouldn’t budge below a consistent 22°C.

He yanked open the door and stomped into the corridor. A trail of flour followed him down the hall.

“Hello? Who’s there? Is that a spirit?”

A voice called from the library. Melanie. The supposed psychic who called him in on the job to accompany her. Oh Bettley Hall is definitely haunted, she’d said. I felt a real presence when I went to see Lady Maude, she’d said. I’m sure we’ll have success this time, she’d said.

“No, Mel, it’s just me,” he replied.

“Oh.”

Pete pushed open the door to the library. Melanie sat cross-legged on the floor, a ouija board laid out in front of her. She sat at the northern point of a square formed along with her three assistants. The teenagers kept their black hair long and straight, and wore identical black outfits. They turned their sullen gazes towards him.

“Any luck?” he asked.

“Not as yet, although I’m still hopeful,” replied Melanie.

“I thought you said you’d felt a presence,” said Pete.

“I did. I can’t understand it, I thought we would have made contact by now. But there’s still time,” said Melanie.

“Still time,” echoed her assistants.

“It’s nearly dawn. We’ve been here for hours. Surely, if something was going to happen, it would have happened by now?”

“It’s your negative energy, that’s the problem. You’ve chased it away.”

“Oh really? Maybe I should go into exorcisms then.”

Melanie pouted. She leaned in toward the ouija board. Her assistants did the same, and they all laid their fingers on the glass.

“Would you mind leaving the room? I don’t want your negative energy blocking the spirit,” said Melanie.

Pete rolled his eyes and left the library. He walked back down the corridor to the morning room. Lady Maude claimed most incidents happened there. Disembodied voices, orbs, cold spots, floating body parts - Pete couldn’t think of a typical symptom of a haunting she hadn’t listed.

He retrieved the EMF meter from the floor under the table. He switched on his digital camera and waved the meter over it. The needle flickered, and dropped back to zero when he turned the camera off.

“So at least you’re working,” he murmured.

Pete checked his watch. Only an hour until dawn.

“Seriously, is there anybody there?” he called.

Nothing. The EMF meter remained quiet. Pete walked around the room, feeling for cold spots. He switched the camera back on and took a few aimless shots. He couldn’t see anything on the viewer but maybe something would show up on his PC.

Who am I kidding? There’s nothing here, he thought. I’m just a ghost hunter who can’t find any bloody ghosts.

The anticipation of the vigil had turned to boredom some time earlier, and Pete left the morning room again. Instead of turning left to the library, he turned right. The corridor crooked around a corner. Pete ducked under a cracked oak lintel into a narrow passage. Threadbare tapestries covered the panelled walls, and the pitted floorboards creaked beneath his boots.

Pete shivered. He guessed the passage led to the west wing, the original block of the house. Lady Maude told him the first Bettley Hall dated back to the Tudors, and the family harboured priests during Elizabeth I’s campaign to uncover Catholics.

Pete shoved his hands into his pockets. Puffs of his breath hung in the cold air. Pete wondered why Lady Maude never installed heating in this part of the castle. She could make a fortune renting it out as holiday accommodation.

The EMF meter crackled into life in his pocket. Pete pulled it out, feeling the cold nip at his fingers. The needle shot up the scale, buzzing around the upper level. Pete’s jaw dropped open.

A sharp knock made him jump. It came from the wall to his right. Pete swept the meter along the wall. The meter squealed when it reached a moth-eaten tapestry depicting a pregnant woman kneeling at an altar.

“Is there anybody there?”

“Succurro mihi.” 

The disembodied voice came from behind the tapestry. Pete held out a trembling hand. He fumbled with the edge of the fabric. Plain wood panelling lay behind the wall hanging.

“Wh-wh-where are you?” called Pete.

“Hic, hac.”

An opaque figure passed through the wall into the corridor. It wore the robes of a priest. A large crucifix hung around its neck. It turned its bald head to face Pete. He looked into empty, staring eyes of the apparition, and fainted.

* * *

Fowlis Westerby pulled off his ridiculous Tudor priest disguise. He straightened his hat and moustache. The Cavalier looked down at the pitiable ghost hunter at his feet.

“I do apologise, old boy. You’re just so much easier to scare when you’re not expecting to see anything.”

The ghost strolled down the corridor towards the library. The séance would surely net him scores of Scare Points.

* * *

The theme for this week’s flash came from the Write Anything Fiction Friday prompt, “Include this theme in your story… After a long night, a hunter sees something he/she cannot believe.” It also marks the second appearance of Fowlis Westerby on my blog – you can read his first appearance here. My beloved spectral Cavalier ghost stars in my very first novel, currently in the redrafting process.

Click here for more information on priest holes!

39 comments:

dijeratic said...

Fantastic story - bit of Poltergeist, Ghost Hunters, even the X-Files (Melanie reminds me of the Stupendous Yappie), and a bit of the Canterville Ghost for good measure. Most excellent tale - a sequel might be in order.

Sam said...

Scare Points! Oh, I love that. Ever since I read your first Fowlis Westerby story I've been hoping he would put in another appearance, and he has. What a great story, and a wonderful use of the prompt.

Icy Sedgwick said...

Dijeratic - These little tales starring Fowlis are teasers for the Fowlis Westerby novel!

Sam - He wasn't even supposed to be in this, he just kind of appeared of his own accord. Fowlis is like that...

wolfmama said...

Great story, loved the ghost pretending to be a different ghost!

flyingscribbler said...

Yes, even ghosts must get bored sometimes!Very atmospheric. I like the 3 teenage assistants (goths, perhaps?) all chanting 'still time' together. Very good. I think I like everything you write Icy, it is never time wasted on your blog. If I ever find the time, I'll check out your archive.

ganymeder said...

That was a great twist! I completely expected something horrible tho happen. Well done !

Icy Sedgwick said...

Wolfmama - Fowlis is rather mischievous!

Flyingscribbler - I'm so glad you like everything! I'm going to be releasing an e-book of my previously published short stories on Halloween, though I'll no doubt collect my Friday flashes too...

Ganymeder - I was going to do something horrible to Pete but then Fowlis turned up and changed the story. He does things like that.

twinklebelle said...

hehe, all Fowlis needs is the T.S.O.D (http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/node/3702235)and he'll be set for scare points. Can't think of anything scarier than a ghost who pop's up in stories alongside a travelling shovel of death. perhaps that's how the shovel gets about? Love it Icy, very entertaining.

Laurita said...

Ha! That was fun. I love a ghost with a sense of humour.

A Writer's Vein said...

Fowlis! A very Scoob-esque ending. Such a charming ghost.

theothersideofdeanna said...

Oh, Icy, this is so much fun! I was quite spooked and afraid for Pete, even though he's a cranky kid, and then he got his due. Bravo!

Annie said...

snigger!! classic.. love the way you wind in that extra punch and twist right at the end.. stringing us along. Your writing is always a delight to read - and I never know where its going to take me.. a wonderful journey!

visitors can see mine at
http://annieevett.blogspot.com/2010/10/passage-of-darkness.html

Draco Torre said...

Nice play on the disrupted seance. Good job, Fowlis.

Maria A. Kelly said...

Wow. Those seance people are in for a treat, eh! Great story! I love your use of historical references.

Gracie said...

Yes, I love Fowlis too, and was quite glad to see him pop up here. And Melanie's little minions cracked me up.

What a great story, Icy! Love it.

Clive Martyn said...

Double scare points :) excellent.

Tony Noland said...

Great set-up, and a terrific delivery. I couldn't tell how real this was until the very end.

katen said...

You have successfully teased. I want to read the Fowlis Westerby novel.

Eric J. Krause said...

Excellent story. This was a lot of fun to read. This guy isn't going to be much of a ghost hunter if he faints at the first sign of a real ghost.

Valerie said...

Hah, I knew he would find a ghost, but that was great. Prankster ghost!

Laura Rachel Fox said...

Great twist. I was just sure he would come across a ghost with all the foreshadowing. Nice trick. The info on priest holes was interesting. I'll have to read more about this Fowlis Westerby character.

John Wiswell said...

I felt a little bad at the declaration of the ghost hunter who couldn't find any bloody ghosts, and life gets worse. Poor folks.

Icy Sedgwick said...

Laurita - Hehe, Fowlis is a lot of fun when he turns up.

Justyn - Fowlis is a real charmer. Very debonair.

Deanna - Well you do know what they say - be careful what you wish for!

Annie - Half the time I don't even know where my writing is going to take me, I just hope people enjoy the ride!

David - I've been in a seance twice, and stuff actually happened. No cavalier ghosts though, worse luck.

Maria - Fowlis isn't keen on spiritualists...

Grace - I'm so glad you like Fowlis! I often wonder what might happen if I introduced him to Methuselah...who would out-charm who?!

Clive - Yeah, Fowlis is the Scaremaster General. Has been for thirteen years in a row!

Tony - I've actually seen priest holes before. They're SO small - even when you factor in the smaller stature of people in days gone by, it makes you wonder what people actually suffered on account of their religion.

Katen - One day, maybe...

Eric - Yeah, Pete's a bit rubbish, isn't he?

Valerie - Fowlis does like a bit of mischief!

Laura - I might post a couple of excerpts from the novel......once I'm happy with it.

John - I'm not sure who's worse - the bad ghost hunter or the rubbish psychic!

CathrynLouis said...

Loved it. Nice when a know-it-all gets a comeuppence.

AidanF said...

Nice portrait of a man who wants to believe. I loved the idea of "scare points".

Carrie said...

Very cool story Ice, I always did like a good ghost story. Look forward to hearing more about your novel.

Chloé P. Kovac said...

I effing love Fowlis. Guy's got style.
Also, tsk Melanie, tsk tsk tsk!

Jessica Rosen said...

Ah, too funny. Love your ghost character's voice. I can't wait to read the novel.

Take care,
Jess

Crybbe666 said...

Love a good ghost story - and this was a ripper. The dry humour of Fowlis was spot-on.

Steve Green said...

Some nice stuff in here, I like the edge of sarcasm between Pete and Melanie.

And a ghost-hunter who is scared of ghosts, whatever next? A baker who is scared of bread? :)

placebythefire said...

Hehe, scare points. I guess ghosts have to entertain themselves, don't they? Great story.

Kari @ The Best Place By The Fire

Chris Chartrand said...

Fowlis rocks! Another fun story. Double cool points.

Shelli said...

Very fun story. I loved how the ghost hunter, whom you would expect to be inured to fright, fainted. Nice twist to the story.

Icy Sedgwick said...

Cathryn - It is rather satisfying, isn't it?

Aidan - I like to think Mulder would have behaved better.

Carrie - I'll no doubt sending you snippets when it's ready.

Chloe - Fowlis will be so pleased to hear that!

Jessica - Fowlis thinks keeping a sense of humour is vital to maintaining sanity in the afterlife.

JM - I'm so glad everyone likes Fowlis - he wasn't even supposed to be in this one!

Steve - I sometimes watch a ghost programme on TV, and the host seems to be terrified of ghosts. Can't help thinking she should have chosen a different career!

Kari - Thanks!

Chris - Fowlis says "Thank you, kindly sir!"

Shelli - Yeah, Pete's quite lame, isn't he?

afullnessinbrevity said...

This is superb, Icy. The timing and pacing is spot on, and the ending is so very droll.
I want to know more about Fowlis; he sounds like my kind of character. I dip my hat to him.
Adam B @revhappiness

John Pender said...

This was hilarious. I loved the ending!

Laura Eno said...

Great Halloween tale! Fowlis has a wonderful sense of humor.

Pamila Payne said...

Oh, how I love this. I can't wait for your novel.

Rachel Blackbirdsong said...

Really well told tale and I love the idea of a ghost masquerading as another ghost.

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